License Plate Lookup in Montana
A Montana license plate lookup is a process of searching for the details of a vehicle by entering the license plate number in a license plate search tool. A license plate lookup provides specific information about a vehicle, such as a vehicle's current owner and their Montana traffic records, vehicle identification number (VIN), date of last renewal, odometer readings, history of the vehicle, and any associated lien. It is useful when purchasing a pre-owned car as it provides some features of the vehicle and its history.
In Montana, the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) under the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulates the issuance of vehicle license plates. However, each county treasurer's office in the state administers the registration and assignment of license plates. Any interested person can look up a license plate in Montana. The Montana Motor Vehicle Code governs the registering and issuing of license plates.
There are several other free license plate lookup websites in the state to get basic information about a vehicle. While the free license plate lookup tools provide basic information about the vehicle, the paid lookup tool gives more detailed information, such as the criminal history of the driver and the accidental history of the vehicle.
What is a Montana License Plate?
The Montana license plate is a metallic plate tag with a reflectorized background showing the registration numbers and characters assigned to the vehicle. The word "MONTANA" must be placed on the license plate with the outline of the state of Montana used as a distinctive border on the standard plate. The state slogan, "TREASURE STATE," is also displayed on the top of a standard plate. License plates for light vehicles and trailers must be six inches wide and 12 inches in length, while plates for motorcycles, quadricycles, and trailers with declared weights of less than 6000 pounds must be four inches wide and seven inches long. The registration number or letter-number combination must be preceded by the license plate county number (01 - 56). The county number is separated from the registration number by a separation mark in the shape of a bison skull. The license plate design year is also displayed on the plate. Montana vehicle code requires that new license plates are issued every five years.
The Montana Motor Vehicle Code establishes that the license plate stays with the vehicle owner and can be transferred to another registered vehicle by the owner. If a vehicle owner sells their vehicle, the license plate remains with the original owner and can be transferred to another vehicle acquired by the owner. The vehicle owner may transfer a license plate without transferring ownership of the first vehicle. However, the first vehicle registration from which the license plate was transferred expires once the transfer is made. Two license plates affixed to the front and rear of the vehicle are required for all automobiles in Montana, with a few exceptions. The exceptions, including motorcycles, quadricycles, trailers, semi-trailers, travel trailers, or pole trailers, must have one license plate fixed to the rear of the vehicle. Suppose that a person cannot comply with having the front license plate displayed due to a vehicle's body construction. In that case, a certificate waiver must be issued by the highway patrol upon inspection of the vehicle and payment of a $25 inspection fee. License plates are compulsory for all vehicles in the state. License plates must not be obstructed from plain view.
There are over 200 different license plate designs in Montana. The Montana Motor Vehicle Code designates five broad categories of license plates, namely:
- Standard License plates - All vehicles in Montana are issued the standard license plates unless the owner explicitly requests any other types.
- Collegiate license plates - The Montana Collegiate License Plate Act provides educational institutions, such as a university, a college, or a community college district, with their unique license plates bearing colors, letters, numerals, and insignia different from the standard license plates.
- Generic specialty license plates - The Montana Generic Specialty License Plate Act provides license plates to bear the name, graphics, or identifying phrase of a sponsor. A sponsor is any of the following:
- Governmental body
- An organization such as a corporation, group, association, or other entity recognized by internal revenue service as tax-exempt
- Fleet license plates - Vehicles with shared ownership are allowed by law to have similar license plate numbering systems that might differ from standard license plates.
- Special license plates - Special license plates are issued to active military personnel, veterans, spouses, and gold star recipient families. Other special license plates include disabled persons license plates and amateur radio license plates.
- Personalized license plates - A personalized license plate is of the same color and design as the standard license plate but with a letter-number combination of the owner's choice.
How Do I Get a License Plate in Montana?
A license plate is obtained after registering and titling a vehicle in Montana. The Vehicle Services Bureau (VSB), a subdivision of MVD, regulates the titling and registration of vehicles. The local county treasurer's office registers all vehicles in the state. All registration and titling transactions are recorded in a customer's account, which is one of the following:
- Individual - the customer account number is the driver's license or state (tribal) identification card number.
- Businesses - the customer account is the tax identification number, federal employer number, or the business number assigned while registering the business with the Secretary of State's office.
The process for registering and titling a vehicle are as follows:
- Apply at the county treasurer's office in the county of residence. A prior appointment might be required for some counties.
- Present an out-of-state title. However, the auto dealer will deliver the paperwork to the county treasurer's office if the vehicle is newly purchased.
- The county clerk may require an applicant to fill out a Statement of Fact (Form MV100) to define facts about the title transfer.
- Payment of all taxes and fees, including title fees, security interest, local option vehicle tax, and lie filing fees. Personalized and sponsored plates attract additional fees.
- The vehicle will be registered and a license plate issued. The county treasurer gives a 40-day temporary permit if the desired license plates are unavailable.
- A license plate decal is issued to indicate that all taxes and fees have been paid. The decal is placed on the rear license plate.
Titling issues and special considerations are handled at the Motor Vehicle Division's headquarters from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm:
302 N Roberts
Helena, MT, 59660
The following information is kept on the MVD record for each registered vehicle:
- Owners name and address
- Manufacturer, make, year, and model of vehicle
- Vehicle identification number
- License plate number
- Vehicle gross weight
- Any other data considered pertinent by the department
The registration fees as provided for in the Montana Motor Vehicle Code for light vehicles, trucks, and buses that weigh not more than 1 ton are as follows:
- Vehicles not more than four years old - $217
- Vehicles between 5 and 10 years - $87
- Vehicles that are 11 years or more - $28
An additional $10 must be paid to fund the Highway Patrol Officer's salaries. A $9 additional fee may be required for maintaining state parks and recreational facilities. Other fees may apply depending on the type of plates requested and the state charities supported.
Light vehicles above 11 years can be registered permanently with a base fee of $90.13. Other fees to be paid include the assessed county option taxes, Montana Highway Patrol Salary fee of $10, optional state parks support, and insurance verification fee of $5.15.
Passenger License Plates vs Commercial License Plates
Passenger license plates are the regular license plates issued to residents for personal use. In contrast, commercial license plates are issued to vehicles for commercial purposes, such as buses, taxis, and commercial trailers. There is no distinction between passenger license plates and commercial license plates in Montana.
How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in Montana
The Montana Driver Privacy Protection Act prohibits the disclosure of highly sensitive personal information from the motor vehicle record unless as permitted by law. An interested third party applying to know the owner of a license plate must show proof of identity, pay a specified fee ($4 for a record and $10 for a certified record), and state reason for the disclosure, which must be one of the following:
- To verify the accuracy of personal information submitted by the individual
- To prevent fraud
- In civil, criminal, arbitral, or administrative proceedings
- To investigate claims by an insurer
- To verify or obtain information by an employer
- To conduct research activities
- To provide notice to the owners of towed, impounded, or abandoned vehicles
- For use by a licensed private investigative agency
- For any other use related to the operations of a vehicle
- With the express consent of the owner
The Montana Vehicle services bureau provides the vehicle history search service. Per the Montana Driver Privacy Protection Act, third-party businesses or websites are allowed to provide the license plate lookup service free of charge or for a fee. The information obtained from the lookup can be used to find the vehicle owner through a phone number lookup or by searching Vehicle service records in Montana.
Third-party aggregate sites are a reliable alternative for obtaining license plate information. These sites are maintained by independent establishments which collate the information from government-run repositories. Obtaining records from these sites often proves substantially easier than government alternatives. However, requestors may be required to provide any information required to facilitate the record search and pay any required fees to access the record of interest.
Montana License Plate Renewal
The Montana Motor Vehicle Division is responsible for renewing vehicle registration and license plates through the County Treasurer's Office.
There are three categories of vehicle registration; 12-months registration, 24-months registration, and permanent registration. Permanent registration does not need to be renewed. A vehicle owner can renew the registration of any of the other two renewal categories a month to the current registration expiration. To renew a vehicle registration, the vehicle owner can visit the local county treasurer's office or use the online facility administered through a third party for the division. The documents required for vehicle registration renewal are as follows:
- The title number, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), or vehicle number.
- Montana State ID or Driver's license.
- Proof of insurance.
- Payment of appropriate renewal fees. Fees are dependent on the car's age, type of registration, type of license plate, and county of residence.
Renewals are effected after all documents are verified and fees paid.
Can You Look Up License Plates with VIN?
Yes, you can look up a vehicle's license plate with its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The VIN and the license plate number are linked in the Montana vehicle registration database. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) inspection web page provides the information for the state's two stages of VIN lookup.
Montana VIN Number Lookup
A Montana VIN lookup involves using a VIN search tool to check for information on a vehicle. All registered vehicles in Montana have a 17-character identifying code that uniquely identifies the vehicle and its manufacturer. The VIN can reveal specific information about the vehicle, such as country of production, airbag types, engine size, plant name, safety recalls, trim level, insurance coverages, and claims. The VIN can be found on the engine block, the dashboard of the driver's side of the vehicle, the doorpost of the driver's side door, or the hood underside.
Can Civilians Lookup License Plates in Montana?
A Montana license plate information may be released upon request as authorized in accordance with the State Driver Privacy Protection Act and a completed Release of Motor Vehicle Records Form. Therefore, a civilian can conduct a license plate lookup at any County Treasurer’s Office (CTO) in Montana. Per Montana Driver Privacy Protection Act, disclosing personal information on license plate records is prohibited. Confidential license plate information is restricted to a selected few like:
- The subject of the record
- A federal, state, or local government agency like a court or a law enforcement agency
- Any individual acting on behalf of a federal, state, or local government agency
- A person, organization, or entity with consent from the record holder
What Do Police See When They Run Your Plates in Montana?
Police officers in Montana can see instant information about a driver and the vehicle when they run plates in the state. They get information on the car and personal details of the car owner, like name, address, date of birth, social security number, driver's license or identification number, photograph or image, telephone number, and medical or disability information. By running a plate, the police can tell if the vehicle registration is expired and issue citations. They can also see the driver’s license status. This helps the police officer know if the license is suspended or revoked license and the reason for such. The arrest warrants of a driver wanted for arrest in Montana will appear when the police run a plate. This can lead to an arrest and the car towed away and impounded.
Free License Plate Lookup in Montana
Montana does not offer free license plate lookups. Therefore, individuals must use third-party aggregate sites to get license plate information for free. Customers typically get the following information by just providing the license plate number:
- Sales records
- Lien records
- Title records
- Theft records
- Title brand checks
- Accident records
- Warranty/manufacturer Recalls
- Vehicle specifications (year of build, odometer reading, color, and technical features)
How to Search for Ticket by License Plate in Montana
The best method of searching for a ticket by license plate is in person at any County Justice Court. The search will typically reveal the following information:
- Driver’s license
- Time/place of the traffic violation
- Traffic violation description
- Officer’s name, badge number
- Vehicle information ( make/model, license plate number, color, and registration number)
Another way of searching for traffic tickets is through the Limited Jurisdiction Courts Public Access Portal. Unfortunately, the search criteria are not by license plate but by citation number.